Wednesday, December 17, 2008

New PTSD lawsuit against the Army

Veterans Sue Federal Government Over Disability Benefits

A group of military veterans filed a class-action against the federal government today, alleging that they were illegally denied disability benefits despite being diagnosed with severe cases of post-traumatic stress disorder that should have qualified them for free care.

The five soldiers, all veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, were discharged by the Army after it determined that their damaged mental health left them unfit to serve, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. Once released, they were assigned disability ratings well below the 30 percent figure needed to qualify for lifetime health care benefits.

The complaint alleges that starting in 2002, the Army “systematically” ignored rules requiring that all servicemen diagnosed with PTSD receive an automatic 50 percent rating. Just this past October, the Defense Department ordered the Army to stop deflating PTSD victims' disability ratings.

So far, there has not been any discussion at the Defense Department about how to compensate the soldiers who were denied benefits before the order, said the veterans' lawyers. The suit asks the Army to award them disability benefits, as well as financial compensation for the benefits they have missed.

Lawyers for the veterans are hoping that the suit’s discovery process will reveal how many other servicemen with PTSD were denied disability benefits.

“We don’t know the exact numbers of the people who were effected, but we think there were thousands,” says Bart Stichman, co-director of National Veterans Legal Services Program, which is representing the soldiers.

Along with the NVLSP, the soldiers are being represented by Brad Fagg, James Kelly, Richard Black and Charles Groppe of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. The suit is the first from the NVLSP’s Lawyers Serving Warriors project, a program meant to provide veterans pro bono counsel from major firms.

This isn’t the first time the Army has come under fire for its handling of PTSD victims. In California last year, a group of former soldiers filed suit against the Veterans Administration in federal court demanding that the agency completely restructure the way it processes PTSD claims and clean up a bureaucratic mess that left many former soldiers without care for months.

Army spokesman Paul Boyce did not address the suit directly, but says the Army would continue doing its best to aid veterans.

“We have assisted more than 650,000 soldiers with their disability both their physical and mental health concerns,” Boyce says. “That’s more people than the city of Atlanta. We will continue to do so.”


I hope the veterans win for all of the low ball awards and the PDO discharges malischiously given PTSD affected veterans.

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